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20 Things I Like To Do

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I was reading this post at my blogging friend’s site, Surviving and Thriving, about 15 things she likes to do.  She mentions that she got the idea from a 20 things list that my other blogging buddy made over on his site, Get Rich Slowly. And sex was right up there with both of them (#1 for Donna – hubba, hubba…those puns must really work).  😉 Well, let’s see what I can come up with pretty quickly: Intimate Time with my Husband I do like sex.  But I also rate snuggling way up there.  And I enjoy the times we just tell each other about our day and make plans for the next one.  Pretty much, I’m lumping all my hubby relationship stuff together. Hang Out with Close Friends My close friends are like my counselors and adopted family combined.  I’m not sure they know how truly important they are to me.  10 years ago, I didn’t have that.  It was my husband, some acquaintances, and our families.  Now we have this amazing support network.  Board gaming and blogging are the two hobbies that truly opened up the world to my hubby and me. Family Time Our support network kicks … Read more

Our Current Monthly Nut

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I haven’t kept up with a monthly budget in several years.  I do keep an eye on our credit card totals at the end of each month before paying them off in full to make sure we aren’t losing our minds.  Since our expenses are lower than our income, and we are hitting our annual savings goals, I have been pretty laid back about the specifics.   But our daughter in due in June, we’ll both be taking a few weeks off at least, and I wanted to know how much per month we actually spend. Our Monthly Spending Has Changed But Not Increased Surprisingly, it’s about the same as the last time I worked out our numbers.  Our medical premiums went down but we increased our monthly mortgage payments.  Cell phone bills have decreased by about 50% with Ting but car payments went up.  Our gasoline needs have decreased but our water rates increased, so those balanced each other out.  We no longer have housekeeping services but our property taxes increased when our values rose, and that ate the extra. Our Monthly Nut is Between $5500-$7000 In short, we still need about $5500 a month to simply cover our monthly … Read more

Property Tax Appraisals Matter

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For the last few years, I’ve been getting more involved in my local community mainly through Nextdoor.com and our neighborhood’s Facebook group.  I wanted to feel more connected to the people who exist around me.  What does this really mean?  I spend WAY too much time on social media.  AND, I get to see questions that I no longer see in personal finance blogs.  It can get a little stale preaching to the choir. Getting Blind-Sided by Property Taxes For example, one of my neighbors from Nextdoor.com got walloped by her bank for a couple of extra thousand dollars because her home’s appraised value zoomed up, she escrows, and the bank didn’t take enough every month last year to cover the property tax increase.  She knew in passing that the appraised value increased but didn’t know to protest it.  She also didn’t know what that would do to her property taxes.  So now she feels blind-sided. Crystal’s Take on Official Home Appraisals and Property Taxes Here was how I replied: It looks like a few people have already summarized the process. We receive our annual property tax appraisals from in the first 3rd of the year. They can increase the … Read more

When is Enough, Enough? Stop Settling for a Mediocre Bank!

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Banks just aren’t what they used to be. A generation ago, competition between banks was fierce and customer service was excellent. Today, things have changed. The Great Recession has consolidated the market and consumers have fewer choices than ever before. However, just because there are fewer options, doesn’t mean you should settle for Mr. Wrong Bank. Bad customer service Not all banks are equal. Large banks have so much of the market that customer service doesn’t need to be a priority – the bank simply exists and, if you need access to your money from a lot of different places, you’re probably a customer of a bank with a lot of branches and ATMs. Luckily, with an increasing number of virtual banks in America, you don’t need to put up with poor service just to have access to your money. Virtual banks often have partnerships with brick-and-mortar banks, allowing their customers to access their money through a large network of ATMs or via cash back opportunities at local stores. If you’re fed up with long lines and rude tellers, tell your bank you’ve had enough and move on. Too expensive Not too long ago, the mere idea of a bank … Read more

How to Spot a Really Great Checking Account

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You’ve had enough! Your current bank and checking account just aren’t doing it for you anymore and you need to find something new. In this case, it’s definitely not you, it’s them. Millions of Americans change bank accounts every year and the banks are getting wise – they’ve begun offering lots of discounts and promotions to get you to sign up. But, do you know how to spot a really great checking account? The account The first thing you need to look for when trying to spot a great checking account is to find one that’s free. Don’t be fooled by promotions saying the account will be free for three-months or if you have a minimum balance of $5,000 – find an account that has no monthly maintenance fees, no minimum fees and no hidden fees. If the checking account you’re eyeing pays out interest, make sure that you understand the rate and how it’s structured. Some promotions will offer you a great interest rate for a short period, but will end up decreasing the rate once the promotional period is over. Read the fine print and only choose a checking account that has a rate structure you can understand. … Read more

Planning for My Self-Employed Maternity “Leave”

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I love being self-employed.  I think I will enjoy retirement even more in the future, but if I’m not financially independent, self-employment is the only craved income path for me.  My Pros of Self-Employment I enjoy the flexibility, the control, and the income diversification that comes along with having 150+ clients in pet sitting and a few streams we have for making cash online.  When I worked for the car dealership software company from 2005-2011, they could have fired me at any moment and I would have had my personal main income stream cut off all at once.  Being self-employed has, strangely enough, made me feel more financially stable overall. My Cons of Self-Employment BUT, there are some WHOPPING downsides.  I truly miss the 100% matching up to 6% in my old 401k.  I also miss being able to take a vacation without coming back to a pile of things to do since everyone in my old department could cover each other’s work.  And, I definitely don’t have any paid maternity leave options now (I’m not sure if my old job had them or not because I left WAYYYYY before we ever thought we even wanted to have kids). Planning … Read more

Four Reasons to Read the Fine Print on Your Checking Account

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There are a hundreds of reasons why someone would want to get a new checking account – maybe you’ve moved and your bank doesn’t have a branch near your new place, or maybe you’re tired of the service you get from your existing bank. Whatever the reason, you have to be sure to read the fine print on your checking account before signing on the dotted line. With interest rates lower than we’ve seen in decades, banks in the 21st century are not making money off of depositors’ funds. Instead, banks earn money from fees, both overt and hidden. Some more common fees include monthly maintenance fees, transaction fees and ATM fees. Sometimes, when signing up for a checking account, the bank will promise that a checking account is free when, in reality, it is only free under certain conditions. Those conditions can be found in the fine print. Here are four reasons to read the fine print on your checking account: Avoid minimum account balance fees Requiring customers to maintain a minimum account balance has been a popular hidden fee in America for a number of years. If your balance falls below an amount, say $3,000, you are required … Read more